Society needs to stop being in denial and start teaching children as young as five comprehensive sexual health.
This is according to the latest UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation report on young people and sexuality, released this week.
The report states: “Comprehensive sexuality education is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality, going beyond the narrower approaches common in the past.”
It said that children being taught about healthy relationships, sexuality, sex, and sexual and reproductive health empowered them.
Unesco said comprehensive sexual education should start as early as with five-year-olds.
“Children as young as five need age- and developmentally appropriate sexuality education to enable them to understand basic facts about their bodies, think about families and social relationships, and recognise inappro priate behaviour, including child abuse,” the report states.
Manos Antoninis, director of the Global Education Monitoring report, said: "It’s time to face the facts. More than one in 10 births are among girls between 15 and 19 years old. This not only spells the end of their education but is often fatal, with pregnancy and childbirth the leading cause of death among this age group.
“Comprehensive sexuality education is part and parcel of good-quality education, the achievement of good health outcomes and progress towards gender equality. Yet in many parts of the world, opposition to comprehensive sexuality education has not only halted progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights, but reversed it.”
One of the advantages of learning about sex and sexuality, the report said, was learning about safer sex behaviours that can prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
“Young people account for 33% of all new HIV infections among adults. Although knowledge about HIV has increased, only 36% of men and 30% of women aged 15 to 24 had comprehensive knowledge of HIV prevention and transmission in 37 low- and middle-income countries,” it said.
But the report is not ignorant to the fact that society is reluctant to allow young people to be taught about these issues.
“Nevertheless, vocal resistance to comprehensive sexuality education by some groups in a number of countries has been rising. In Uganda, a public backlash led the Ministry of Education to withdraw the national sexuality education curriculum, which was subsequently revised.
“In England, the 2018 decision to make relationship and sex education mandatory met with opposition; an online petition gathered over 100000 signatures,” the report said.